China’s Xi calls for calm
President urges U.S., Pyongyang to avoid escalating crisis
KOREA» Chinese President Xi Jinping made a plea for cool-headedness over escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday, urging both sides to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation.
The call came after Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Friday, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any ac- tion against U.S. territories or allies.
Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. China is the North’s biggest economic partner and source of aid, but says it alone can’t compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.
The White House said in a statement that Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior.” It also said that the two “reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
State-run China Central Television quoted Xi as telling Trump the “relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula.”
But restraint was not the word of the day on Friday as Trump sent out a cascade of unscripted statements, including what appeared to be another red line — the mere utterance of threats — that would trigger a U.S. attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for Kim.
North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper, meanwhile, lashed back at the U.S. in an editorial Saturday.
“The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack,” it said. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Life on the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, also remained calm.
There have been no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as has been the case during previous crises. State-run media ensures that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but doesn’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.
U.S. officials say they will be going ahead with long-scheduled military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang says it will be ready to send its missile launch plan to Kim for approval just before or as the drills begin.
Called Ulchi-freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the exercises are a rehearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are necessary to deter North Korean aggression.